Speaking of Politics bemoans absence of politics in the Land of Logan
By Jim Turner

Posted on November 2, 2015 11:18 PM

Either Jack Conway or Matt Bevin will be elected governor of Kentucky Tuesday. I have never met either one of them. I’m guessing about 95 percent of my fellow Logan Countians share that shutout with me.

The recent death of Adairville native Bill Dockins in the Northeast reminds me of how things used to be.

In the fall of 1977, my best friend Harris Dockins told me that his cousin Bill had offered us tickets to the World Series if we would come on up to New York City. The Yankees I had grown up loving were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers that I had grown to loathe because of their being in the same division as my National League team of choice, the Atlanta Braves.

It was the chance of a lifetime: the Bronx Bombers against the former Brooklyn Bums at Yankee Stadium.

If you are a baseball fan, you probably remember the 1977 Series. It was the one in which Reggie Jackson solidified his claim to being “Mr. October.”

Here’s what one source says: “Los Angeles Dodgers 4 at New York Yankees 8, F -- In a performance as legendary as any Yankee great before him, Reggie Jackson blasted three consecutive home runs on three pitches against three different Dodger hurlers (Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough) into the frenzied Stadium throng.

That’s what Harris and Billy saw. I didn’t. I didn’t go. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Why? Because I stayed home to greet all the politicians who were descending upon Logan County for the Tobacco Festival.

I had resigned from teaching at Russellville High School that spring to become assistant managing editor of the News-Democrat and The Logan Leader. At that time, we prided ourselves as being the most politically savvy newspaper in the state outside Louisville and Lexington. Editor/Publisher Al Smith was the most astute political observer in the state. Al Cross, who went on to be the featured political columnist of The Courier-Journal and now teaches rural journalism at the University of Kentucky, was part of the staff, having taken over editorship of one of the newspapers under Al Smith’s spreading wing in Leitchfield.

I had been interested in politics most of my life, solidified on the day Doc Beauchamp called me to come by his house as an 18-year-old. He had gotten Gov. Ned Breathitt to declare my membership in the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels because of my having been a speaker at Doc Beauchamp Day at Rhea Stadium.

Logan was a hotbed of Democratic politics. After all, we were the home of political kingpins Thomas S. Rhea, John Albert Whitaker and Doc Beauchamp. PVA Karl Dawson, County Judge Bob Brown, Doc’s chief lieutenant Rayburn Smith and future Auburn Mayor Oscar Wren understood the intricacy of local and state politics, as did Republican leaders Lawrence Forgy and Russell Porter.

We were rewarded by the presence of most of the major candidates for state office in a primary that was still 19 months away. They were all over the place, gathering at the library for a radio program, either riding or walking in the parade, and then attending the “Statemen’s Luncheon” orchestrated by Bro, Joe Carrico.

The major candidates for governor at the time—Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane, Auditor George Atkins and Gov. Julian Carroll’s hand-picked successor, Terry McBrayer—mingled among us. So did lieutenant governor candidates Jim Vernon, Thelma Stovall and many others. Even a candidate for attorney general, Steve Beshear, was our guest.

That was the election that changed Kentucky politics forever. John Y. Brown Jr., who owned the Kentucky Colonels basketball team and Kentucky Fried Chicken, jumped into the fray at the last minute with his Miss America wife, NFL on CBS commentator Phyllis George. That beautiful couple blew away the competition—those who had paid their political dues for decades.

In the years that have followed, we have elected other relative political newcomers as the state’s chief executive officer—Wallace Wilkinson, Brereton Jones and Dr. Ernie Fletcher. Bevin is another wealthy businessman who is trying to convince voters that it is his turn to lead the state.

Still, political candidates kept finding their way to Logan. I have spent hours I cherish with one-on-one interviews of Gov. Bert Combs and Gov. Louie Nunn as they campaigned for close relatives. I also spent some quality time with Sen. Mitch McConnell and almost-governor Larry Forgy. Sen. Wendell Ford was a regular here. I got to know well Lt. Gov. Steve Henry and his wife Heather, another former Miss America.

As recently as eight years ago, my son Clay and I had lunch with Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer at Roy’s Bar-B-Q while he was running for reelection. He actually talked about agriculture instead of UK basketball. Six years later, he reported to federal prison for treating the office like it was his personal serfdom.

I had a nice visit with Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes last year as she campaigned for Senate against McConnell. Having lost to the eventual Senate Majority Leader, she is running for reelection as secretary of state but has not seen the need to return here.

But it seems to me that Logan County has been shut out of the political drama this go-around. I haven’t seen any candidate this year and I haven’t heard Don Neagle interview any of them on ‘Feedback.’ I haven’t read a locally written state political story in the N-D&L in a long, long time.

Not only do we not get the candidates, but very little of their advertising money comes to local media. Their presence and their campaign funds are concentrated on big cities.

Barry Kennedy, who teaches history at SKYCTC and is a local Republican leader, says Bevin’s running mate, Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green, was here early in the campaign. He notes that our state senator, Whitney Westerfield, who is the GOP candidate for attorney general, and agriculture candidate Ryan Quarles appeared at Republican headquarters on the Saturday afternoon of the Festival, but much of the crowd had gone home by then.

Westerfield, however, is in Logan County frequently as one of our two representatives in the legislature. He is available when we need him.

Unless I missed them, there were no elected officials in this year’s parade except those who live in Logan County.

Kennedy believes that although the crowds are still huge at what is now the Tobacco & Heritage Festival, the venue of choice for politicians on the second Saturday of each October is the Trigg County Ham Festival. In fact, Westerfield and Quarles had been in Cadiz before their appearance here.

I miss the days that the Land of Logan was a destination instead of after-thought in statewide politics.

You may ask, if Jim Turner had it to do over again, would he go to the 1977 World Series or stay home to play host to Kentucky’s political stars?

The answer would be: “New York, here I come. Let’s play ball.”


Copyright © The Logan Journal